Over the last month, Team Turbine have been trying out the project management tool Basecamp. So far we are very impressed. Here’s why.
If you have only one or two projects going on at once you can usually keep on top of them with a piece of paper, a diary and an email account. Any more than that and it get’s a little tricky.
- Where did I save that file?
- Did Jack send me that briefing?
- Does Jill know I’m waiting for those notes before I can start?
- That’s a great source for the Inc. corp project, how will I remember to use it?
- What am I doing today?
Using a project management tool to solve these problems is the obvious step, but there is still a stumbling block in how you transition from using paper to engaging with a fully functional app. This is where Basecamp stands out.
The idea behind Basecamp is that each project is contained on a single page, just a like a single piece of paper. You can then delve deeper into documents and discussions, just as you would shuffle through a stack of paper. It is ideal for improving productivity because it is intuitive.
Basecamp offers a 60-day free trial, which is ample time to have a good play around. You give your email address and you are up and running in minutes.
Setting up a project opens up a blank page with a list of options across the top. They create just what they say they will:
If you are anything like me you will find yourself immediately uploading all those files you had no idea where to save, creating to-do lists, starting discussions with collaborators and transferring vital information from disparate emails into text documents. Within a few days of signing up everything that I had been trying to hold in my head poured into Basecamp. I felt lighter and more confident in what I was doing because everything I needed was in one place.
The real test
Basecamp wowed and wooed initially, but could it keep up it’s sterling performance as I started to really dig in and use it on a day-to-day basis? Pretty much, yes. Whilst appearing very simple, Basecamp actually hides a great deal of functionality.
You can set dates and deadlines, assign tasks and loop people into discussions without them seeing the entire project. We have developed templates and broken down tasks, all of which has meant increased efficiency, an improved workflow and successfully completed projects.
One month and over 20 projects into Basecamp I have found only two things that are not as simple and effective as I would like:
- If you are working on a document with more than one contributor then you have to upload a new file every time there is a version change. Basecamp does not overwrite old versions, so you end up with a long list of documents.
- You can click the ‘Me’ tab and see all projects, to-dos and activity relating to you. You can click and narrow down on your to-do’s for the next week, month or forever. What you cannot do is prioritise those to-dos beyond a due date, or differentiate between to-do’s of varying complexity. This means scheduling the week ahead still takes a little extra effort, and for me a real piece of paper.
Whilst we are still ironing out the best way to use Basecamp, I would still say the verdict is unwaveringly positive. 37Signals have designed a tool entirely from the point of view of the user: rather than getting carried away with codes and widgets, the creators have zoned in on what is essential to project management and made that work beautifully instead.